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Tent Weights

The MoonLight tent weights are on the SPECS page. This is a more general discussion.

There’s a lot of confusion in the marketplace about just what “minimum” tent weight is and why it’s been done like that. I was in those OIA and ASTM meetings and was part of the process, so let me try to explain. The goal from the start was to have some sort of level playing field to compare tents. Seems simple enough...

It’s probably easiest to start at the end:
A tent’s
“minimum weight” was decided to include ONLY the poles + inner tent + rainfly.
No stakes, no stuff sacks, no guylines, no repair tubes, no instruction manuals, no hangtags, no gear lofts, no cup holders, no nothing else.
We came to this definition after literally years of deliberation. We hashed and then, as new people came to meetings, rehashed the same issues over and over (until many simply stopped coming or came late *ahem*). Many times it became clear that there would be unintended effects of including something other than those three things. Here were the sticking points:

1) All tents should be staked down and all vestibules
need to be pulled out, why don’t we include those stakes in the weight since they’re necessary?
This was the biggest issue and it was resolved only after considering exactly what stakes might be in the weight. Would they be standardized weight stakes (???) or special ultralight ones? Would it be just the stakes needed for vestibules, all the stakes for the tent floor plus vestibule, or all the stakes for the tent, vestibule(s) and guylines? If we said that freestanding tents didn’t have to include stakes but vestibule stakes had to be included, would it be OK for a manufacturer to include really skimpy stakes for the vestibule (but have lots more of other ones for the unweighed stakes)? Questions like this eventually drove us to accept that if we really wanted some sort of comparison weight, like it or not, it would have to be a stripped weight.

2) Why aren’t a bunch of other tent things that are usually brought along included in the minimum weight? Things like stuff sack and instructions and gear lofts and repair kits? Well all those things are fine to include in a package weight of some type but should an instruction manual be included in a weight intended for comparing tents? Remember, people will look at ONE number. What number should that be? And what if the manufacturer wants to give the customer a ton of stakes and guylines (like us)? Should that count against them?

3) What about using rocks and sticks as anchors? Can’t a customer that supposedly “needs” stakes actually just use a little bit of cord instead? Are we then going to weigh little bits of cord? Inquiring minds wanted to know.

4) What about stuff sacks? They're not really necessary if you're truly counting grams. You can just stuff the tent directly into your backpack. Not only will it weigh less, it'll fill awkward spaces around irregular gear like pots and stoves and bear canisters.

And so on... Clearly a stripped weight was a standard that wouldn’t punish a manufacturer for giving the customer lots of goodies and didn’t present any ambiguity. So, despite the unfair advantage it gave non-freestanding tents (ones that absolutely require anchors even to setup the inner tent), the standard was adopted and life went on.

Funny but true story: after all this discussion and time and hand-wringing, a large retailer decided that they didn’t like the name “minimum weight” so they just up and called it the “Trail weight” even though it’s not the weight that anyone would actually have on a trail. Utterly baffling...
Some good news: there's a move afoot to rename the minimum weight the "base comparison weight." I'll take it!

Why are published tent weights wrong so often?

Short answer: Honest to god, you will not believe how hard it is to get an accurate weight on a tent until you have long running production - hundreds and hundreds of tents - to get data from. Production fabrics with coatings - the majority of the fabrics in any tent - have finished weights that bounce all over the place.

Long answer: Optimism paired with a lack of data on the variability of fabric finishes has made many a tent come in heavier than expected. Especially the ones with weights of
XX lbs 15 oz. If the sample is soooo close, it gets very easy to be optimistic about your production weights. (for instance, the MoonLight 3 minimum weight was once 6 lbs 15 oz because that's what my sample weight correction spreadsheet said it should be – UPDATE BELOW*) The over-the-top obsessing over fractions of an ounce has led us to this state and both manufacturers and customers are responsible for this. Here’s what I tell myself when I start to get too caught up in the sport of ounce chopping (it really is a sport of its own): “Mike, get your fat ass out on hike for an hour and feel how good it is to be a full pound lighter just like that. You want exercise or what?” But I digress. The fabric finishers really are the ones that trash spec weights the most. It’s just something that they don’t really care much about and, for them, they feel that if they give you more coating for the same price, they’ve done you favor. Meanwhile the floor or rainfly (or both) might be 10-20% heavy. It’s a problem that requires a lot of management energy and persistence to conquer.

*UPDATE: The first production MoonLight 3 run came in and... the envelope please: they are 3 ounces heavy due to heavy floor coatings. Ayiiie! I’m switching to a different supplier for the next production run! It's still a huge and strong tent for the weight but JEEPERS! With every production run we will update out specs to stay current. We're on production run #7 BTW.